Joe Garner’s second-half spot-kick sealed a 2-0 victory for Preston North End over Crawley Town at Deepdale.
The Lilywhites bounced back from Tuesday night’s demoralising 3-3 draw with Chesterfield to secure their first league victory and clean sheet since the 1-0 home victory over Oldham on August, 23.
Australia international Bailey Wright opened the scoring in the 23rd minute as he pounced on Alan Browne’s pin-point cross to fire home through a sea of bodies.
Garner headed over the line in the first half but the goal was chalked off for a foul on Crawley keeper Jamie Ashdown.
But the striker rippled the back of the net in the 65th minute as he stepped up to coolly dispatch a penalty over Ashdown after Mat Sadler had handled in the box.
Preston North End manager Simon Grayson named stuck with the same starting XI that surrendered a three goal lead to draw with Chesterfield on Tuesday night.
Kevin Davies missed the clash due to a broken rib but Chris Humphrey returned from injury and came off the bench in the 71st minute.
Captain John Welsh is still out with a calf strain and Lee Holmes is still sidelined.
Josh Brownhill’s second minute shot stung the palms of Ashdown who parried the ball back into the danger zone but the ball just evaded Joe Garner and trickled to safety.
Crawley’s quick free-kick found Gwion Edwards unmarked 25-yards out the midfielder danced past Neil Kilkenny before striking the ball just outside the box. But PNE keeper Jones dived and tipped the ball around his right-hand post for a Crawley corner in the ninth minute.
After some slick passing Calum Woods whipped in a fierce cross from the right wing towards PNE’s top goalscorer Garner but the strikers header flew towards the middle of the goal and Ashdown leapt high to save the powerful header in the 13th minute.
Edwards tried his luck from distance again in the 16th minute but his curling 25-yard strike flew wide of the right hand corner.
Garner pounced on Hayhurst’s right wing cross in the 22nd minute and Ashdown made a fine save to stop the in-form striker’s downwards header nestling in the bottom left corner.
And moments later PNE took the lead as Bailey Wright latched on to a sublime, pacy Alan Browne cross 12-yards out and smashed a low shot past Ashdown.
Paul Gallagher was booked for a foul on Edwards on the right and Crawley nearly equalised from the subsequent free-kick as Garner headed the ball onto the underside of his own bar.
Crawley looked threatening from set pieces and in the 27th minute Marvin Elliot latched on to a corner but his fierce header flew wide.
But PNE upped the ante with some slick counter-attacking football as Gallagher stormed down the left wing. The Scot teed up Browne on the edge of the area but the young Irishman sliced his first-time shot wide into the path of an offside Garner.
Garner nodded Hayhurst’s corner from the right over the line in the 38th minute but the header was chalked off for a foul on the keeper.
And North End nearly doubled their lead as Browne ran along the goal line before pulling the ball back to Garner. But the striker’s shot was blocked by a Crawley defender in first-half stoppage time.
Scott Laird started the second half in place of David Buchanan who suffered a suspected hamstring injury.
North End captain Tom Clarke and Izale Mcleod were booked after a tussle as Crawley earned a free-kick on the left hand-side of PNE’s half in the 58th minute.
And PNE doubled their lead in the 65th minute as hit-man Garner fired home from the spot. Referee Kevin Wright awarded a penalty after Sadler handled Gallagher’s fizzing cross from the left in the Crawley box and Garner made no mistake to score his sixth goal of the season.
And Garner’s curling 12-yard shot was thwarted by a diving save from Crawley shot-stopper Ashdown in the 73rd minute.
Gallagher’s long-range effort skidded agonisingly wide of Ashdown’s right hand post in the 85th minute.
And Ashdown was on hand to stop Garner once again as he dived to his left to save the striker’s header in stoppage time.
PNE: Jones, Clarke, Wright, Kilkenny, Gallagher, Woods, Buchanan (Laird, 46), Garner, Hayhurst (Humphrey, 71), Brownhill, Browne. Subs not used: Stuckmann, Wiseman, Reid, King, Robinson.
Crawley Town: Ashdown, Henderson (Wright, 55), Leacock, Edwards, Smith, Mcleod, Walsh, Bawling (Young, 83) Tomlin (Harrold, 62), Sadler, Elliott. Subs not used: Jensen, Bradley, Banya, O’Connor.
Referee: Kevin Wright (Cambridgeshire)
Attendance: 10,388 (84 away)